Sunday, July 20, 2014

Just Another Day at Hanna-Barbera

Recognise this scary face?

Why, of course you do. It’s Carlo Vinci, animator of some of the funniest drawings in the early days of the Hanna-Barbera studio. And you may recognise the picture as being similar to one which opened a story on the studio in Life Magazine published on November 21, 1960. You can read it HERE.

Amid over at Cartoon Brew was nice enough to point out that all the photos taken in the shoot by Allan Grant for that story are now on-line. Allow me post a few of them (for non-commercial purposes, naturally, as this is a fan site).

Fans of the Modern Stone Age family should recognise the drawing the anonymous inker is working on. Thanks to the DVD of “The Flintstones,” we’re able to see the original opening of the first two seasons of the show where Fred is driving through Bedrock, running errands and then going home. He is stopped by a cop for a fire truck, designed by the great Ed Benedict. The inker is working on a drawing of the “truck.” The dino’s legs would be on separate cels as the animal is running. I have no idea who animated the opening and would accept any and all educated guesses (several people have sent me the same answer; see Mike Kazaleh’s note in the comment section). You can spot a piece of the Flintstones’ size chart in the corner. Inkers and painters were the unsung heroes of old cartoons.

The brilliant Mel Blanc is at the centre of this photo of a break in (or just prior to the start of) a voice session for “The Flintstones.” Bea Benaderet has her back to the camera, and the others are Jean Vander Pyl, Joe Barbera, Alan Reed and Alan Dinehart. In the corner of the shot, that’s John Stephenson with the pencil; he appeared on several cartoons as early as the first season in 1960. I gather from Tony Benedict’s interview with Mark Evanier at this year’s Wonder Con that this session was recorded at the Columbia Pictures studio. Remember that the Hanna-Barbera studio at 3400 Cahuenga hadn’t been built yet; H-B started in the Kling studio on La Brea in 1957 and then moved to a building at 3501 Cahuenga (a block from their future home and a block and a half from Jack Kinney Productions) by August 1960. Incidentally, those Ampex tape machines in the booth were great. I imagine the studio recorded the reels at 15 ips and then cut reference discs for the animators to use when drawing mouth movements; there’s another picture in this set of Carlo at his drawing board with a turntable and record nearby.

Here’s Joe Barbera paying rapt attention to his secretary.

And here’s a gag picture of Joe Barbera after being kicked out of his office. Alan Dinehart is passing in the hallway. Life doesn’t have the pictures captioned so I don’t know exactly what's going on here.

You’ll notice in picture with the secretary (Scott Shaw! tells me she’s Maggie Roberts), the table has an Emmy, a wooden key and little models of Huck, Quick Draw and a wooly mammoth, as well as Tom and Jerry, who were still property of MGM. Someone, maybe it was Jerry Eisenberg, described the window-less studio where H-B was located when he arrived in 1961 as “the bunker.” Those painted brick walls sure leave you with that impression. The building is still there today. It’s still without windows and still has painted bricks.

Look at the talent in this room for what may have been a development meeting. The greatest cartoon writer in the world, Mike Maltese, is on the right side of the picture talking to Alex Lovy (the bald chick-magnet to the right). From left to right in the photo are: Guy with a brush cut who I should know, Dan Gordon, Alan Dinehart, Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna and the marvellous Warren Foster to Hanna’s left. Maltese is blocking Howard Hanson, who you can’t see. The drawings on the blackboard we’ll discuss in a post next week.

A recording session. No, that’s not Hoyt Curtin conducting. Curtin was a beefy guy with a rum nose; he looked like a character out of Guys and Dolls. Hanna has his foot up on the step. Listen to some of the orchestra’s work by clicking on the button.

“You must live in a hole if you don’t like to bowl! Hey, hey, hey, hey!” The studio had a bowling team. Could the third person in the shot be Tony Benedict? By the way, this building is still there but this side entrance is different today.

And here’s one more of the stars of “The Flintstones” and their cardboard cut-outs. You can see the old-time network radio influence as they’re all gathered around one mike. There must have been a lot of bobbing in and out to read lines but all of them worked in radio in the ‘40s, so they’d be used to it.

If you want to look at all the photos, click HERE. There are others of Carlo; one of them shows layout drawings for “The Golf Champion.” My thanks again to Amid for the link.


  1. The twin shots of Joe with his secretary and Joe sprawled out into the hallway kind of makes you wish Hanna-Barbera had done a gag reel like the Schelsinger studio did before World War II (which probably never would have happened because the B&W film would have blown Bill Hannah's budget, plus they spent two decades at MGM being warned by Fred Quimby about that "Warner Brothers rowdyism").

  2. I doubt HB had a live action camera for reference; they wouldn't need one.
    There were still pranks aplenty at MGM (Barbera remembered that Quimby spent most of his few hours a day the studio sleeping). How could it be otherwise with Cal Howard working there? Dan Bessie talks about a couple in his book, including one involving O.B. Barkley and Herman Cohen, from around the time the studio shut down.

    1. I've never seen much written about it (though I may have just missed it from Bessie or elsewhere) but it would be interesting to note any difference in attitude at the MGM cartoon department in the final years prior to the shutdown, after Quimby retired and Bill and Joe were the ones in charge. It is one of the rare situations where the artists actually were running a major studio, but with Metro's worsening financial situation and with the rise of television, they were doing it at a time where the financial pressures were greater than ever.

    2. H-B probably did have a live-action camera at least a short time later; in an interview, Doug Wildey recalled "running the littlest guy in the studio on a treadmill" and filming it as reference/rotoscope footage for the boy running thru the jungle in the "Jack Armstrong" test scenes used in the main titles and credits for Jonny Quest.

      Their later action-type shows also used live reference footage at least occasionally; I do know that a dancer named Michelle Hart was the "live model" for Jana of the Jungle.

  3. The first season Flintstone opening was animated by Ken Muse.

  4. LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT! Just recently I speculated that there must be more photos from Life photographer's Allan Grant that never made it to actual article. Glad to see to Life has released these. I know many criticize HB and say they ruined animation but I disagree. Yes, most of their post 1964 stuff 60 output sucked but Huckleberry Hound Show, Yogi Bear, QuickDraw on into their quad ABC-TV primetime series were great in my opinion. Bill and Joe weren't trying to compete with Disney they were trying to compete with TV shows of the era and I think they succeeded on that BIG TIME.

  5. Oh yes, you are right, Yowp.Those Ampex machines were great. Brings back a lot of memories. Most certainly they were running 15 ips for the best quality. Plus, as you would know, most of the time you could use your China Markers and razor blades more effectively at that speed. Acting around those great old ribbon microphones was an art. Yell right into it and break the ribbon. I'm sure that's why in the earliest episodes of The Flintstones, when Alan and Mel would yell, you can hear that very familiar, almost back of the room echo. They stepped way off the mic to record the yell. Thanks for the tour. It was great seeing the daily going ons in the day in a life at H-B.

  6. I just came across your blog today and like it a lot! I'm a fellow Hanna-Barberian and grew up with all of these characters! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thank you for this!

    1. My pleasure, John. And my best to your family.

  8. While reading this article, I couldn't help but wonder how the animators completed their work. I'd love to find that out, especially during these early days.

    For example, in the Wikipedia article for Kenneth Muse, it says that when an animator was assigned to do an episode of the Flintstones, they would be given a month to finish all the drawings. I assume that this was done during the first two seasons, when episodes being assigned to one animator was more common.

    That information had no citations though, so I don't know whether or not it's believable. Given that it's limited animation, it is possible. Has anyone heard of this, or know of any documentation for this?